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Same sex marriage (SSM) in New Hampshire

2012-JAN: SSM repeal bills inactive. New bill
written to give immunity from human rights
legislation to people who want to discriminate.

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2012-JAN-18: Vote originally scheduled on an SSM repeal bill HB 437:

An anonymous legislative assistant has said that the House was scheduled to hold a vote on a bill to terminate SSMs on JAN-18. If it passed, it would later be debated and voted upon by the Senate. Since Republicans control both the House and Senate, the bill would probably pass and sent to the governor's desk. He has committed to vetoing the bill. It is not clear whether there would be sufficient votes in both the House and Senate to override the veto.

On 2011-OCT-25, the House Judiciary Committee voted 11 to 6 to recommend passage of a bill in the House. It would have repealed the 2009 SSM law and would replace it with a law making civil unions available for any two unmarried adults who are capable of entering into a contract -- whether they be of the same gender or opposite genders. The civil unions would grant spouses the same rights and responsibilities given to married couples, except for what may be the most important right: calling their relationship a marriage. The bill also would allow any person to discriminate against spouses in a civil union in employment, housing and public accommodations

The Committee also considered a second bill that would simply repeal the same-sex marriage law of 2009. The Committee did not recommend this bill for passage by the House. 1

An anonymous legislative assistant reported that the House was scheduled to consider these bills on JAN-18. If one passed, it would later be debated and voted upon by the Senate. Since Republicans control both the House and Senate, the bill would probably pass be and sent to the governor's desk. Governor John Lynch (D) has promised to veto the bill. It is not clear whether there would be sufficient votes in both the House and Senate to override the veto.

The Republican representatives do not have a unified political philosophy. Some are libertarians who strongly favor smaller, less intrusive government and greater individual freedom, including citizens having the right to marry the person that they love and to whom they are committed. The bill will probably pass the House. But it is uncertain whether the Republicans in the House would be able to over-ride the expected Governor's veto because of the libertarians.

However, by the mid 2012-MAR, neither bill had advanced.

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2012-JAN-24: House committee considers new bill to protect people and business who want to violate human rights legislation:

The House Judiciary Committee considered bill HB 1264 titled: "AN ACT establishing a religious exemption for individuals who do not wish to provide accommodations, goods, or services for marriages." 2

The bill states:

"457:37-a Freedom of Religion and Conscience in Marriage. Notwithstanding any other provision of
law, no person, including a business owner or employee thereof, shall be required to provide
services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges to an individual if the request
is related to the solemnization, celebration, or promotion of a marriage and providing such
services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges would be a violation of the
person’s conscience or religious faith. A person’s refusal to provide services, accommodations,
advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges in accordance with this section shall not create any civil
claim or cause of action or result in any state action to penalize or withhold benefits from such
person." 3

The bill covers individuals and businesses that provide marriage services to the general public. That would include halls that are rented out for wedding receptions, wedding photographers, bakers that make wedding cakes, stores that sell wedding dresses, stores that rent tuxedos, etc. Under the bill, individuals and businesses would be given immunity from being charged under existing human rights legislation if they refuse -- because of their religious beliefs or conscience -- to provide services that they normally supply to the public.

It would take effect on 2013-JAN-01.

The Eagle-Tribune stated:

"The bill would put an exemption in state marriage law. The proposed text says no person, including a business owner or employee, should be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges for wedding services in 'violation of the person’s conscience or religious faith'." 4

Allegedly, supporters of the bill are concerned that clergy would be, against their will, forced to marry same-sex couples or risk prosecution under existing human rights legislation. They have apparently not read the the original same-sex marriage law which clearly gives religious officials total protection to refuse to marry same-sex couples. Clergy are also protected under the U.S. Constitution. Priests, ministers, pastors, etc. have refused -- and sometimes continue to refuse -- to marry couples for a wide range of reasons: e.g. one or both persons who form the couple is of the wrong race, the wrong religion, physically disabled, insufficiently mature, etc. 4

Opponents to the bill note that this bill is so generally worded that its influence would extend far beyond discriminating against same sex couples. "Think Progress" commented:

"Given the bill doesn’t even specify 'same-sex' marriage, it would hypothetically protect the right of 'conscience' to discriminate against any kind of marriage, including interracial, binational, and interdenominational couples. For this reason, it’s likely this bill would be preempted by the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, among other nondiscrimination statutes. 5

Webmaster's comments: (bias alert): We normally try to report news straight-up while minimizing the impact of our own beliefs about the topics discussed. However, we feel that this bill is so divisive and discriminatory that we have decided to add our comments.

National polling shows that there is still a very strong minority of adults who are opposed to same-sex marriage. A few years ago, this was a weak majority. Also, there are still many people who are opposed to a couple marrying who are of:

  • different races or
  • who follow a different denomination within the same religion, or
  • who follow different religions,
  • or where one person is affiliated with a religion and the other is secular, etc.
This law would allow employees and company owners who have such discriminatory beliefs to refuse to grant services to such "mixed" couples.

Freedom of religion originally meant freedom of belief, freedom to associate with others in a congregation, freedom to engage in religious practices, freedom to proselytize, etc. This type of freedom of religion is very well protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, this bill does not involve these freedoms. Rather, it refers to a new emerging and rapidly growing meaning of the term "freedom of religion:" the freedom to use one's religious beliefs to justify discrimination against individuals and groups, and to denigrate them.

The term "homophobia" has many meanings, including fear of, hatred towards, or acting to discriminate against lesbians and gays. We prefer the latter meaning on this web site. The word is in the same category as racism, sexism, transphobia, xenophobia, or religism which can also involve fear of, hatred towards, or acting to discriminate against persons on the basis of their race, gender, gender identity, nationality or religion.

This bill would entrench discrimination in the legal code of New Hampshire. It implies that if a person's religion teaches that its members should fear, or hate, or act to discriminate against persons of other races, women, lesbians, gays, transgender persons, foreign-born or those who follow other religions that it is acceptable behavior to deny them services. That is, religiously based discrimination beliefs of one person trump the elementary human rights of another. The bill would gut the concept of human rights in the state. Instead of legalizing the use of religion to denigrate others, New Hampshire should fund an educational program to reduce these forms of fear, hatred and acts of discrimination.

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The bill, as introduced, would allow individuals, companies, and their employees to discriminate against same-sex couples, interracial couples, interfaith couples or opposite-sex couples who are too closely related who wanted to use their services. There is no obvious reason why the bill would not also grant immunity to:

  • A racist who denied services to a black couple simply because of their color, or
  • religist (religiously bigoted) person who refused service to a Wiccan couple because of their religion, or
  • A anti-semite who refused service to a Jewish couple, or
  • A clerk in a pharmacy who refused to sell condoms to a person who was getting married that she/he felt was too young, or
  • A person who believed that the sole purpose of marriage is to conceive and raise children, and therefore refused services to an older engaged couple who are past child-bearing age.
If the legislators want to allow people to discriminate against same-sex couples with immunity, it would seem that they should write a bill that does this alone, and does not introduce so many additional methods by which people can discrimate because of their religious beliefs.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Norma Love, "NH panel votes to recommend gay marriage repeal," Boston Globe, 2011-OCT-25, at: http://www.boston.com/
  2. Sarah Parnass, "A Step Forward and a Step Back for Same Sex Marriage," ABC News, 2012-JAN-25, at: http://abcnews.go.com/
  3. Text of HB 1264 as introduced, titled: "Freedom of Religion and Conscience in Marriage," 2012-JAN, at: http://granitegrok.com/ This is a PDF file.
  4. Jacob Combs, "NH House panel considers ‘license to discriminate’ bill," Prop 8 Trial Tracker, 2012-JAN-25, at: http://www.prop8trialtracker.com/
  5. Zack Ford, "New Hampshire Legislature Considers ‘License To Discriminate’ Bill," Think Progress, 2012-JAN-24, at: http://thinkprogress.org/

Copyright © 2011 and 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-JAN-18
Latest update: 2012-MAR-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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